Recently, a Facebook friend posted an interesting article. He stated the current phraseology of “flawed” or “flawsome” was applicable in the Church as pertains to its inability to retain, very well, the generation under thirty.” While the term might be applicable as pertains to “short comings” in the application of doctrine, I do not feel it fits the Church in regards to how we work with and incorporate youth.
Surveys indicate our youth leaving the church because they do not feel they are vital to the church operation. I happen to attend a church where youth are actively engaged and many feel they are a vital part of its outreach to the surrounding community and world. The key to this success is found in the numbers of adults who willingly participate in church youth related programs and are actively involved as mentors.
A mentor, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “a wise and trusted counselor.” In reality, a mentor is far more. He/she is comparable to a whetting stone and the student/subject/apprentice can be likened to a blade. Amply applied, mentoring hones an individual thus preparing them for a future of usefulness. However, as many can attest, developing a fine edge on a knife or sword takes time and the same can be said of the mentoring process.
Most people have not been afforded the privilege of finding, working with, (or working under) and being honed by a mentor. I have been blessed in this regard as I have in my life been with several individuals who I considered mentors. The skills these unique individuals helped me develop are now the very things I attempt to help others develop and improve upon.
Over the past two decades mentors and mentoring returned to public light in the private and corporate arena; however, before it became overtly popular in the business field, it was already enjoying a revival in the Christian Church. This Christian mentoring renewal found strength in writings from such notable authors as Dennis Rainey (The Tribute), and the duo of Howard and William Hendricks (As Iron Sharpens Iron). The subject remains popular today as noted by the recent release of Tony Dungy’s work (The Mentor Leader).
Nonetheless this art (talent) has lost some luster. This is partially due to incidents where the mentor did not fully understand his/her responsibilities to their subject/apprentice. In some cases, the mentor did nothing more than attempt to be a teacher and stun the student with brilliance. When “teaching” grew old, both the mentor and student became disillusioned resulting in both disengaging from the process.
While teaching is part of the mentorship process, it is only a portion of it. In this writer’s opinion, a true mentor "brings up a child (person, youth, young adult) in the way he/she should go" in regards to practical service, faith and putting faith into action. As such a true mentor is an expert communicator, especially in the realms of "listening skills." The true listening mentor possesses numerous skills (or attributes). Using the word ‘mentor’ as an acronym, these attributes are laid out as follows:
M – Motivator
E - Educator
N - Networker
T - Teacher
O - Organizer
R - Responder
Let’s take a closer look at these attributes.
1. Motivator is usually defined as one who provides others with incentive or motives by means of utilizing techniques borrowed from psychology and sociology. We oft think of inspirational speeches when we think of motivators but the reality is the individual dependent upon words alone is not a great motivator. The mentor motivator is the one who uses words sparingly. Instead he/she raises the bar by example. They do not point toward an end state rather they lead the way toward the determined goal.
2. Educator – is defined as an individual who is “a specialist in the theory and practice of education.” The true mentor is able to expound or add emphasis on what others might consider minute. He/she challenges the student/apprentice in realms of critical thinking, as well as learning to identify, operate and cooperate with the various joint functions (departments) in a society, secular business, or within the church itself. The educator mentor accesses overall training and development. He/she recognizes training needs, and incorporates necessary training at the correct time and place to further the trainee/apprentice professional development.
3. Networker – usually recognized as one who makes connections among people or groups of like minded individuals. The mentor utilizing this attribute demonstrates his/her “people skills.” The ability to see, hear and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the student/apprentice gives the mentor the ability to train-up and launch the apprentice in the field where they will likely excel.
4. Teacher – is a person who teaches a particular subject. As an attribute, teaching demands concentration on one particular subject. In other words, when I am teaching, I am showing the individual how to identify, utilize and/or incorporate the use of a specific item or process. The teacher will remain fixated on the subject until the student/apprentice clearly understands the topic, technique or item (equipment) we are discussing or training upon.
5. Organizer – is recognized as the person with administrative and coordination expertise. The mentor utilizes this trait by ensuring the student/apprentice receives organized and concise training during the developmental process. The mentor is responsible for conducting this developmental training. When the mentor is not an expert on a specific field, he/she will refer to a subject matter expert and organize the training incorporating this expert. By doing this, the mentor ensures the student/apprentice receives the best training possible.
6. Responder – when the mentorship experience begins, the mentor initiates every aspect of training and development. The mentor naturally allows the apprentice to take on more responsibility as they mature. In this regard, the apprentice must increase which means the mentor’s work begins to decrease. The mentor will know (by instinct and through observed repetition) when it is time to let the apprentice expand in the realm of responsibility. At this point the mentor ceases to be the initiator and simply responds to the student/apprentice as needed utilizing positive reinforcement and exhortation.
Utilizing these skills the true mentor is able to hear, adjust, implement, and bring up the trainee/apprentice to a state of maturity in their development.
Over the years, I have helped many trainees prepare for work in the civilian and military by mentoring them in phases. Basic work development follows the same procedure as that of a young child’s development, therefore I refer to my mentoring stages as the Crawl, Walk and Run phases.
1. Crawl Phase consists of necessary Learning Clusters. During this phase the mentor will lead by example utilizing statements like:
“I will get to know you and you will know me.”
The trainees will learn:
a. Staff Sections and Responsibilities
b. Standards of Dress (attire)
c. Standards of Conduct (common professional courtesies)
d. The Supervisory Levels
e. Concepts of Team Building
f. Standard Equipment (familiarization of usage)
2. Walk Phase consists of Facilitated Mentorship. In this phase, the mentor re-emphasizes the basics, but with the intent of leading the apprentice toward the first level of personal responsibility. This is noted by the reoccurrence of the following statements:
“You have watched me do this.”
“Let’s do this together.”
“Now that we have done this together, you do it while I monitor.”
During this phase the trainees will:
a. Become proficient (experts) in the use of all office and field equipment
b. Understand the mission (as defined by a recognized mission statement)
c. Incorporate the necessary things in order to accomplish a task/mission
d. Acquire knowledge in the basics of joint coordination efforts
e. Acquire knowledge in the basics of conflict management
f. Begin limited (closely monitored) supervisorial activities
3. Run Phase consists of what I refer to as Classical Mentoring. Reoccurring statements are:
“I have watched you do these tasks.”
“I know you know how to do these tasks.”
“This is now your responsibility and I am releasing it to you now.”
“If you need me, you know how to contact me.”
“To ensure you are excelling, I am providing you advanced training.”
In this phase, the trainee will demonstrate the ability to:
a. Maintain and utilize all equipment as needed in any event or mission
b. Master all aspects of any mission during any situation
c. Coordinate joint operations (top to bottom)
d. Resolve conflicts within the organization
e. Acquire insight and proficiency in necessary advanced fields of concern
The reader may feel my three phrase technique is exclusively for adults, but the process can easily be tailored. Comparable programs already exist and The Assemblies of God Royal Rangers program is an excellent example.
The church is not flawed in regards to incorporating youth. The church simply needs to do a better job at what we already do. It’s time for more adults to take a larger interest in the development of the church’s future. It is time for more adults to become mentors.